Enhanced Writing Functionality
and Scholarly Journals on the Web
The escalating cost of academic serials (Cummings, et al, 1992; Sosteric, 1996; Wyly, 1998; Yoon, 1998) and the opportunities of the World Wide Web are breaking down the traditional relationships between scholarly writing and publishing. Publishers are responding by offering digital versions of their paper journals, but scholars are already experimenting with new forms of communication such as web repositories of "e-prints" (Hafner, 1998), or seeking alternatives to traditional publishing venues (i.e.,International Consortium for Alternative Academic Publication (http://www.icaap.org). Scholars are also enhancing the functionality of their writing by producing web documents. For example, the American Historical Association is offering a scholarship to support adverturous historians: "We will help the author figure out how to add links and illustrations and create any multimedia additions" (Young, 1999). The digitization of scholarly writing gives scholars powerful new tools to express themselves, reach students and analyze data.
The successful web-based scholarly journal of the 21st century must combine scholarly cultural needs, such as peer review, with enhanced writing functionality. The intended research will investigate how enhanced writing functionalities are shaping the emergence of new web scholarly journals.
The Enhanced Functionality of Web Writing
The scholarly journal arose in the age of print. Typically, a scholar used a typewriter to create the scholarly article, a printer used moveable type to print it, a publisher used the postal system to distribute it, and a librarian used library buildings to store it. The Internet and the World Wide Web have transformed scholarly writing, publishing, dissemination and storage. Suddenly scholars can publish directly to the Web. Suddenly text is enhanced with media and active content. Suddenly students can interact with course material on their teacher’s web site. The following sketch demonstrates how a scholar can utilize the enhanced functionality of web writing:
The powerful functionality that I can employ in constructing my course materials or writing a web textbook is generally not available to me when I write for publication in scholarly journals. For example, when I write for JASIS – Journal of the American Society for Information Science, my text is transformed into a PDF file and uploaded to theWiley InterScience (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/) web site. [At this time the functionality of hypertext, image and media files, http links, scripting and so on are not supported.]
This irony—that the premier information science journal is still essentially a paper artifact—prompted the forecast (Brooks, 1998b), on the occasion of JASIS’s fiftieth publishing anniversary that it is unlikely to enjoy another fifty years without radical transformation. Brooks argued that the only appropriate information "journal" of the 21st century would be a web site.
The disparity between the individual scholar’s enhanced writing functionality for the web and the limited writing functionality supported by web scholarly journals is the primary research motive for this application. This research will (1) Survey the writing functionality supported by scholarly journals on the web, (2) Determine what type of web "journal" design that supports the greatest writing functionality, and (3) Survey the satisfaction of a random sample of web authors.
The findings of this research will speak to the future of academic journals. To find that academic journals can support, or are preparing to support enhanced functionality suggests their ultimate survivability. To find that academic journals are not supporting enhanced functionality suggests their ultimate demise in favor of a web form that is in more accord with new scholarly writing functionality.
Different Kinds of Web Journals
While the functional basis of the paper scholarly journal is well known, the functional basis of the web scholarly journal is not. Web journals can be created along a spectrum of functional capability:
The "journal as web site" design is one of the most functionally complex methods of creating a scholarly journal. An "article" may be a virtual product of multiple files residing in the same subdirectory. The advantages of this functional design include: (1) Text can be enhanced with media files, scripting and Java applets, (2) Versioning is supported (i.e., the familiar idea of a "final" version cedes to continuously updated versions), and (3) Associated texts such as criticisms and justifications can be included. Lost are familiar journal characteristics such as authoritative versions and periodical publishing.
As a candidate for the editorship of JASIS, I wrote a vision statement,JASIS at 2010 (Brooks, 1998a) speculating on the functional form for a web version of JASIS. As a member of the editorial board of JASIS I have witnessed the enormous angst provoke by the potential lost of familiar signposts such as definitive versions and numbered issues. I have witnessed the reluctance to accept the dynamic new functionality of writing employed by scholars. My personal experience suggests that much of the anxiety of transferring a scholarly journal to the web arises from the ignorance of (1) What are the various possible strategies for creating a web journal? (2) What are the functional implications of each strategy? One of the socially useful products of this research would be to provide groups such as the editorial board of JASIS information about possible web design alternatives.
A Survey of Functional Complexity of Web Writing
The intended survey would investigate three areas: (1) What functionality is supported? (2) How is currency maintained? and (3) How is functional obsolescence avoided?
(1) What Functionality is Supported?
For purposes of the intended survey, the functional complexity of web writing is composed of the following elements (in rough order of increasing complexity). This list is intended as suggestive, not exhaustive; web journals may support functionalities not listed here. The proposed survey would determine which of these elements are supported by various web journal strategies.
(2) How is Currency Maintained?
Currency of context is one aspect of web writing that requires periodic maintenance. The research project would survey the support for the following authorial demands (in no particular order). Again, this list is intended to be suggestive, not exhaustive.
(3) How is Functional Obsolescence Avoided?
Web journals that host functionally complex documents must have policies to handle the following technical obsolescence problems:
The Research Questions
This research aims to investigate the writing functionality supported by web scholarly journals, limitations on web writing functionality of each design, and any existing policies for currency maintenance and technical update. Comparisons of web writing functionality will be made to web textbooks and scholarly web sites.
writing for a web journal.
($15/hr for 10 hr/week for 30 weeks)
Graduate Student Benefits @ 10%
Office sundries (Including telephone calls)
Total Direct Costs
Facilities and Administrative Costs (52%)
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Brief Vita of Terrence A. Brooks (http://weber.u.washington.edu/~tabrooks/vita.html)
Ph.D. Library Science, 1981
Dissertation: "An Analysis of Library-Output Statistics"
The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Associate Professor, October 1991-
Assistant Professor, 1986-1991
Graduate School of Library and Information Science,
University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Chairman, Best Information Science Book Award, ASIS 1998.
Book Review Editor, Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 1995 -